He was around 6-4, closing in on 6-5 heading into eighth grade.
Basically the tallest kid walking through the halls.
You gotta figure Lance Ware was a basketball player, right? With that kind of size, it only seems natural that he would gravitate toward the hardwood. He probably averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds on a travel team, blocked a handful of shots.
Turns out he was putting up those type of numbers playing Xbox or PlayStation.
“I was always the tall kid in class, but I just didn’t play organized basketball,” he said. “I wasn’t a big sports guy. I played video games a lot.
“I really wasn’t interested in it, but then my dad took me to a workout. Ever since, I’ve been playing every day. I think about basketball every day and every night. After the first week, I was doing things I couldn’t do before. I just fell in love with it and just want to get better every day.”
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Ware played AAU basketball the summer before eighth grade. Team Final was his first organized squad, the beginning of what has been an amazing journey.
Now a rising senior at Camden, Ware is really just beginning to tap into his unlimited potential. The 6-9 power forward has emerged as one of the top players in the country, ranked No. 47 by 247 Sports and No. 48 in the ESPN 100.
College coaches have stood up and noticed the kid who has a tremendous amount of tread on his tires.
“I had two or three offers last year. Out of nowhere, I got five ACC offers in two days,” Ware said. “Everything has changed super quick.
“It’s crazy. I never thought it would go this far. Everything is happening and basketball has become my life.”
Atlantic Coast Conference. Big East. Big Ten. Pac 12. All of the major conferences are in on the recruiting process.
Ware has in the neighborhood of two dozen offers. Georgetown, Oregon and Louisville offered while he played in the Nike EYBL Peach Jam last weekend in Georgia.
“My game is changing every day and it’s nice to see my work has paid off,” he said. “For it to continue to pay of is beautiful.”
Temple, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Miami, Ohio State, Seton Hall and others were already in the picture. Michigan, North Carolina and Auburn could be next.
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“He works hard and is going to be an incredible leader,” said Vic Carstarphen, who stepped down after one season as Camden’s head coach and is now pursuing a political career in his hometown. “He’s running the floor, playing big. He’s been playing well since the spring and I’m so proud of what he’s done. He’s a Top 50 player, and it isn’t just by name.”
Ware said he plans to cut his list of schools down soon, possibly sometime this week.
“When I first started playing, people told me that if I kept working I could be really good,” Ware said. “I never thought it would come this far. Only in my dreams would I get recruited by some of the best schools in the country.
“It was the middle of ninth grade, tenth grade when I started to see that maybe I was better than I thought and could take it to the next level. I didn’t grow up around basketball and haven’t watched a lot of basketball. When coaches recruit me, I’m learning as much about their programs as they are learning about me.”
Ware averaged 11.6 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.6 steals and 2.2 blocks last season as a junior. Camden finished 17-10 overall, losing 69-67 in overtime to eventual state champion Haddonfield in the South Jersey Group 2 final.
With Ware anchoring a strong nucleus of returning players, along with the expected arrival of freshman sensation Dajuan Wagner Jr., this year’s Camden team could be among the most talented in recent history.
“I’m going to try to lead my team and help everyone get better,” Ware said. “When my last game of high school comes around, it’s going to be emotional.”
And will that come with another piece of hardware for the trophy case?
“That’s the goal,” Ware said. “That’s the goal.”